Grandpa and Grandma Harris didn’t have a lot of money, yet they managed to make each Christmas memorable for my cousins and me. There was always plenty of food, fun, and love. And from an early age we learned that it was Christ who made this celebration possible.
We want to leave the same legacy to our children. When we got together last December to share Christmas with family, we realized this wonderful tradition had started with Grandpa and Grandma. They couldn’t leave us a monetary inheritance, but they were careful to plant the seeds of love, respect, and faith so that we—their children’s children—might imitate their example.
In the Bible we read about Grandma Lois and mom Eunice, who shared with Timothy genuine faith (2 Timothy 1:5). Their influence prepared this man to share the good news with many others.
We can prepare a spiritual inheritance for those whose lives we influence by living in close communion with God. In practical ways, we make His love a reality to others when we give them our undivided attention, show interest in what they think and do, and share life with them. We might even invite them to share in our celebrations! When our lives reflect the reality of God’s love, we leave a lasting legacy for others.
When I married my English fiancé and moved to the United Kingdom, I thought it would be a five-year adventure in a foreign land. I never dreamed I’d still be living here nearly twenty years later, or that at times I’d feel like I was losing my life as I said goodbye to family and friends, work, and all that was familiar. But in losing my old way of life, I’ve found a better one.
The upside-down gift of finding life when we lose it is what Jesus promised to His apostles. When He sent out the twelve disciples to share His good news, He asked them to love Him more than their mothers or fathers, sons or daughters (Matt. 10:37). His words came in a culture where families were the cornerstone of the society and highly valued. But He promised that if they would lose their life for His sake, they would find it (v. 39).
We don’t have to move abroad to find ourselves in Christ. Through service and commitment—such as the disciples going out to share the good news of the kingdom of God—we find ourselves receiving more than we give through the lavish love the Lord showers on us. Of course He loves us no matter how much we serve, but we find contentment, meaning, and fulfillment when we pour ourselves out for the well-being of others.
Charlie Sifford is an important name in American sports. He became the first African-American playing member of the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Tour, joining a sport that, until 1961, had a “whites only” clause in its by-laws. Enduring racial injustice and harassment, Sifford earned his place at the game’s highest level, won two tournaments, and in 2004 was the first African-American inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Charlie Sifford opened the doors of professional golf for players of all ethnicities.
Opening doors is also a theme at the heart of the gospel mission. Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).
The word nations (v. 19) is from the Greek word ethnos, which is also the source of the word ethnic. In other words, “Go and make disciples of all ethnicities.” Jesus’ work on the cross opened the way to the Father for everyone.
Now we have the privilege of caring for others as God has cared for us. We can open the door for someone who never dreamed they’d be welcomed personally into the house and family of God.
Saying goodbye is hard—to family and friends, to a favorite and familiar place, to an occupation or livelihood.
In Luke 9:57-62 our Lord describes the cost of being His disciple. A would-be follower says to Jesus, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus responds, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (vv. 61-62). Is He asking His followers to say goodbye to everything and every relationship considered precious?
In the Chinese language there is no direct equivalent of the English word goodbye. The two Chinese characters used to translate this word really mean “see you again.” Becoming a disciple of Christ may sometimes mean others will reject us, but it does not mean we say goodbye to people in the sense that we are to forget all our past relationships. Saying goodbye means that God wants us to follow Him on His terms—wholeheartedly. Then we will see people again from the right perspective.
God wants the best for us, but we must allow Him to take priority over everything else.
As a child, my favorite week of the summer was the one I spent at a Christian youth camp. At the end of the week, I’d sit elbow-to-elbow with friends in front of an enormous bonfire. There, we would share what we had learned about God and the Bible and sing. One song I still remember focused on deciding to follow Jesus. The chorus contained an important phrase: “no turning back.”
When Elisha decided to follow the prophet Elijah, Elisha did something incredible that made it difficult, impossible really, for him to return to his prior occupation of farming. After going home and having a farewell banquet, Elisha “took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them” (1 Kings 19:21). Leaving his way of life, he burned up his plowing equipment. He roasted the freshly butchered meat over the blaze and fed everyone present. Then “[Elisha] arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant” (v. 21).
Giving ourselves to God, who deserves our devotion, often comes with a price. At times, it means making difficult decisions about relationships, finances, and living arrangements. However, nothing compares with what we gain when we continue on with Christ. Jesus said, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25).
During the Bosnian War (1992–1996), more than 10,000 people—civilians and soldiers—were killed in the city of Sarajevo as gunfire and mortar rounds rained down from the surrounding hills. Steven Galloway’s gripping novel The Cellist of Sarajevo unfolds there, during the longest siege of a capital city in modern warfare. The book follows three fictional characters who must decide if they will become completely self-absorbed in their struggle to survive, or will somehow rise above their numbing circumstances to consider others during a time of great adversity.
From a prison in Rome, Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi, saying: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). Paul cited Jesus as the great example of a selfless focus on others: “Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, . . . made Himself of no reputation . . . humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (vv. 5-8). Rather than seeking sympathy from others, Jesus gave all He had to rescue us from the tyranny of sin.
Our continuing challenge as followers of Jesus is to see through His eyes and respond to the needs of others in His strength, even in our own difficult times.
When Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert died, a fellow journalist wrote of him: “With all his notoriety, honors, and celebrity, all his exclusive interviews and star-dusted encounters with movie greats, Ebert never forgot the essence of what we do—review movies. And he reviewed them with an infectious zeal and probing intellect” (Dennis King, The Oklahoman).
The apostle Paul never forgot the essence of what God wanted him to be and do. Focus and enthusiasm were at the heart of his relationship with Christ. Whether he was reasoning with philosophers in Athens, experiencing shipwreck in the Mediterranean, or being chained to a Roman soldier in prison, he focused on his calling to know “Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings” and to teach about Him (Phil. 3:10).
While he was in prison, Paul wrote, “I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:13-14). Whatever his circumstances, Paul continually pressed forward in his calling as a disciple of Christ.
May we always remember the essence, the heart, of who we are called to be and what we are called to do as followers of Jesus.
In July 1860, the world’s first nursing school opened at St. Thomas Hospital in London. Today that school is part of the King’s College, where nursing students are called Nightingales. The school—like modern nursing itself—was established by Florence Nightingale, who revolutionized nursing during the Crimean War. When prospective nurses complete their training, they take the “Nightingale Pledge,” a reflection of her ongoing impact on nursing.
That’s my disciple,” I once heard a woman say about someone she was helping. As followers of Christ we are all tasked with making disciples—sharing the good news of Christ with people and helping them grow spiritually. But it can be easy to focus on ourselves instead of Jesus.